Friday, August 24, 2007

Cult of Mac.

I'm famous!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lord. God. You

An interesting piece of design I stumbled upon. An explanation can be found here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Preaching to the Perverted in Second Life

Only days after Frank started preaching the missonal opportunities for communal living in Second Life, I find the following story pop up on my bloglines list... the only question now, is did the author Lore Sjöberg read Frank's blog and get inspired to write this story, or did he just stumble upon the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life?

Linden Lab recently outlawed gambling in Second Life, officially making cybersex the one interesting thing that happens there. A Jesuit scholar has suggested that Second Life is an excellent target for missionary work in an attempt to bring that number down to zero. The very concept of missionary work in an artificial world brings up a number of questions, many of them exceedingly creepy.

Chief among them is this: How do you speak of spiritual things to a giant squirrel person with six breasts? If you're a virtual missionary in a virtual world speaking to another virtual person, are you trying to convert the virtual person or the real person behind it?

This seems like it ought to be a fairly straightforward question. After all, as far as we know Heaven doesn't even have broadband. There's no point in trying to get a half-naked robot lady to take the Eucharist, half-naked robot ladies don't really enter into God's great plan. No, obviously you're going to have to reach the person behind the keyboard, the sinner behind the symbol.

The problem with this is that virtual worlds are someplace where you can be someone else. In fact, you can be anyone else. It would be ridiculous to go a comic book convention and try to talk someone dressed as Doctor Octopus out of robbing banks. Presumably animal-rights activists aren't trying to convince Glenn Close not to make clothing out of Dalmatians. Why would you wander into a virtual world and pick out likely targets for conversion based on their avatars?

Certainly you can look around for immoral behavior, but that leads to the tricky question of whether pretending to be immoral is actually immoral.

From what I've been able to puzzle out, I think most sins are only sins if you're actually doing them. There have been plenty of attempts to argue that violent video games encourage people to be violent in real life, but as far as I know nobody is arguing that shooting down gang members in a video game is, itself, murder.

(Actually, "nobody" is a tricky word to use in the age of the internet. It doesn't seem impossible that somewhere out there, on some cramped, crazy little blog, someone's holding vigil for all the gang members, aliens and orcs cut down in their prime.)

However, some sins seem to be sins even if you're just pretending. Most of these have to do with sex. If I log in to Second Life as Clorgo Codpiece and pretend to shoot up with my friend Sexxula Bodyoil, I don't think I'm actually doing heroin from a religious point of view.

But if we pretend to engage in all sorts of unlikely and disturbing sexual acts with each other, apparently we're actually committing adultery? Or maybe it's only adultery if we're doing it for sexual stimulation. If we're performance artists with a purely intellectual dedication to portraying unsettlingly artificial humanoids working their way through the Kama Sutra, perhaps it's merely pornography.

The point is, it confuses things.

Instead of trying to figure out who needs a good convertin' based on their actions, maybe you could ask them. But then you have to wonder if they're telling you the truth. There are many people on the internet who will tell you that they're Catholic schoolgirls, but very few of them are Catholic, schoolgirls or both.

And if you meet someone who appears to be a half-naked woman, have a long talk about God's plan, and come back in a month to find them dressed as a nun, well, it's possible that you had such an effect on them that they immediately joined a convent that gives novices internet access, but it seems more likely that you just convinced them to switch fetishes.

Unusual Cratering on Saturn's Dione

Why does one half of Dione have more craters than the other? Start with the fact that Saturn's moon Dione always has one side that faces Saturn, and always has one side that faces away. This is similar to Earth's Moon. This tidal locking means that one side of Dione always leads as the moon progresses in its orbit, while the other side always trails. Dione should therefore have undergone a significant amount of impacts on its leading half. But the current leading half of Dione is less cratered than the trailing half! A possible explanation is that some impacts were so large they spun Dione, sometimes changing the part that suffered the highest impact rate before the moon's spin again became locked. Pictured above, it is the top part of Dione that appears significantly more cratered than the bottom half.

(If you're wondering why I've posted about a Moon by the name of Dione, you're at the wrong blog!)